A Confession

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Mr Cosgrave seems such a mild mannered man but his depraved tastes offer a few surprises to a pair of hardened detectives during a candid interview.

Let’s go back just short of two decades ago.  It was a grey and wet morning in East London, a clammy start to a spring day that stuck the clothes to your back. The noise and exhaust fumes from the traffic gorged street fogged the mind and choked the lungs. Mr Cosgrave, as he was used to being formally addressed in his role as a primary school teacher, stepped out of the taxi, as near to the police station as the driver could get him in the midst of the ceaseless stream of jousting vehicles. He was on bail and had been called in for an interview. The police station was an imposing and ugly seventies  redbrick affair that resembled an abandoned polytechnic college and there were plans seemingly in constant hiatus to knock it down and move everything to a nice new building in a more accessible spot. Cosgrave had waived the right to have a solicitor present, his decision based on a mixture of vanity and frugalness. His career was gone, he suspected, but it was unlikely he would be incarcerated and life would offer new possibilities and consolations. 


Cosgrave crossed the drably lit reception area and walked up the counter. He smiled at the desk sergeant, a hulking figure with a ruddy face and shock of red hair, popping out of his uniform,  who looked mid-thirties. The desk sergeant’s laboured breathing was accentuated by the acoustics of the reception area. Cosgrave gave a dry cough when he felt he had been studiously ignored for too long. 

“Yes sir, how can I help you,” said the desk sergeant.

“I’ve an interview with Detective Hesford at 10 o’clock.’

The desk sergeant absently snorted and looked at the appointment list, ‘Mr Cosgrave I presume.’

Cosgrave affirmed and offered a hand that was merely stared at. The desk sergeant appraised him with a sidelong glance, hiding his contempt behind a mask of indifference. 

‘Mr Cosgrave, I need to read the charges made against you and your legal rights, then you need to acknowledge that you understand them.’

“Of course,” beamed Mr Cosgrave.

As the desk sergeant read out the charges the bonhomie drained from Mr Cosgrave. By the time the sergeant had finished with the legal stuff Cosgrave felt hollowed out. He confirmed he understood the charges levelled against him in a voice little more than a whisper. 

“Print your name here, signature next to it, and time and date it,” said the desk sergeant, pushing the visitors’ book across the desk. Cosgrave filled it in as instructed.

“Wait in the reception area, I’ll go and get the detective.”


Cosgrave took a seat. A lean and wiry man of average height, Cosgrave  had the clichéd look of a middle aged teacher from an earlier era in brown corduroy trousers and matching blazer, black turtleneck sweater and black suede shoes. His face was smooth and pink skinned, belying his age, with pale blue eyes that alternated between twinkly and void; a mirthless smile was never far from his thin lipless mouth and it was all crowned with a blue rinse pompadour which induced sniggers amongst his work colleagues and casual acquaintances. He had no real friends to speak off, not offline anyway. There was something over stylised and affectatious about his gestures and demeanour, he was someone essentially charmless and empty but who believed he was eccentric and full of character. Detective Hesford had spoken to a few of the teachers where Cosgrave had worked and they all said the same thing. He had an insufferable smugness about him and a relentlessly chirpy manner that verged on the faintly creepy, when ‘off camera’ his countenance would be stony faced and humourless as he regarded the children a little too intently. Cosgrave had been suspended on full pay pending the court verdict, where it was likely he would be fined and put on the sex offenders register. This would make his dismissal a formality and theoretically DBS checks should prevent him finding tenure in another educational setting. Cosgrave did not relish this prospect but he was cheered by the thought he had money put aside to live comfortably and enjoy his premature retirement by indulging his private passions.


Detective Hesford arrived in the reception area, a tall slim man looking like a civil servant of minor ranking in white shirt and grey suit with a sober matching tie, neatly parted mousy brown hair and thin framed glasses. Early forties Cosgrave put him. Though Hesford ignores his proffered hand like the desk sergeant did he has an avuncular manner that brightens Cosgrave. 

“Thank you for coming in at such short notice. We just want to read through your original statement and just clear a few things up.’ 

Hesford smiled and gestured at the door to the left of the counter. After they had both gone through it the desk sergeant locked it. 


They walked down a battleship grey corridor into the bowels of the building. Hesford told Cosgrave that his colleague Detective Ward would be helping to conduct the interview then there was silence until they got to the interview room. The interview room was windowless and minimally furnished, four chairs, two either side of a thick wooden table with metal legs. Its poky confines were  illuminated by overhead strip lighting that bathed the room in a sickly yellow. Detective Ward was sitting at the table smiling, a tape recorder, pen and notepad before him.  Cosgrave’s stomach lurched at the sight of the stack of bulky manila envelopes before the unoccupied chair awaiting Hesford; he just knew what was in there. Ward was about his age, squat and pudgy in a green shirt and patterned tie with a greasily expressive face, what was left of his thinning hair fashioned into an intricate comb over. 

“Hello Mr Cosgrave, thank you for coming in. Please take a seat.”

Cosgrave sat down while Hesford took the seat opposite him. Ward made small talk, asking Cosgrave if his journey was ok, the traffic around here was diabolical, did he want some water, no thank you, then about  the interview format. He was more gregarious than his friendly but reserved colleague. Cosgrave was asked firstly to confirm his full name, date of birth and current address. He was 54 years old.


Hesford pressed the record button and noted the time, date and who was present. Before the interview began formally the charges against Cosgrave had to be reiterated and again he would need to acknowledge them so they had it on tape. Cosgrave had used his credit card to access child pornography websites and been duly traced. Over 10,000 indecent images of children ranging in severity were found on his home computer. Cosgrave visibly diminished as the charges were recited and regretted attending without a solicitor. He could call for a duty solicitor but that would be too much of an admission of defeat. So Cosgrave started to talk without any prompting, he’d give some context in order for them to better understand his actions, smooth it all over.


Cosgrave told them of his divorce; three years ago now, married 6 years, no kids. He brushed over these details like it was  more shameful than the porn.  The detectives were  polite but didn’t  indulge his attempts to establish a chummy rapport. He told them of how stressful his job is, or rather was, the school was not in a good catchment area, the kids awful, the parents horrible.  All boorish, pushy, stupid and entitled, he hated them all. His benign veneer had totally dissipated and Cosgrave, sensing he was coming across as sour and disillusioned, gathered himself and alluded again to the emotional pain of his marriage collapsing. No, he wasn’t in contact with his ex-wife anymore. Her decision, not his. She moved to Australia to live with her sister. The detectives let him talk himself out for a bit before firmly redirecting him. No he’d never looked at or interacted with any of the children under his duty of care in a sexual manner. The very thought of it offended him, why the very suggestion, he had always been a consummate professional. 

“I’ve never had a reputation...for that…’

He isn’t a paedophile, the word sickens him. When prompted, Cosgrave admitted a fascination with images of tortured children. It helped to alleviate his stress. What a strange thing it was, of possible interest to a psychologist, how anxiety and depression bent you out of shape. This struck the detectives as something of an idee fixe for Mr Cosgrave. 


The time stamps on the photos and the dateline of his credit card transactions saw a progression in the severity of the images he downloaded and saved in a desktop folder on his home computer titled ‘homework’; the later ones are unspeakable. As the detectives relentlessly questioned him while producing photos and receipts from the envelopes, Cosgrave became zombified and meekly assented when he realised the computer forensics meant it was futile to be contrary. When he was interrogated about the pictures with animals in them  Cosgrave reddened and launched into a digression, again about how fascinating his aberrant psychology was, how life had annihilated him so much he found solace in things too horrible to bear and all that. He freely disclosed it all, just wanting the photos to be stuffed back into their envelopes, partly through shame and partly through flickers of desire. The taping concluded soon after that and the detectives curtly shut down Cosgrave’s further musings on his endlessly interesting psyche and how he was just in a bad frame of mind.   They thanked  him for his time and escorted him to the reception desk. Cosgrave waved at them. The desk sergeant walked him out the building.


Back on the street Mr Cosgrave joined the arterial flow of pedestrians and was quickly anonymous. He bobbed into a cafe and had a pot of tea and bacon on toast with brown sauce, furtively glancing at a young mother and her daughter at a nearby table. The mother caught  his gaze and glared admonishingly at him. Cosgrave stared deep into the teapot. He was nothing and he was legion.


After Mr Cosgrave had left the police station the detectives had discussed the case. It was a bit of a strange one. Cosgrave was an atypical figure as paedophiles go. He had a clean record up until his recent arrest, and it tended to be a lifelong and vociferous occupation. That’s not to say he hadn’t dabbled before and just been extremely cautious and diligent in his habits but it was unusual for a pederast in his mid-fifties who worked with his objects of desire not to have shown up on their radar earlier. When his flat had been searched there were no mags or trophies lying about just the stuff on his computer. Just the ten thousand plus images. Usually it’s everywhere. They never hide it because they are in constant commune with their accrued materials. He had no close friends or any pen pals they could trace, while online he frequented monstrous places his interactions with other users had been modest and guarded. The teachers at his school said he had been there for years and there’d been a few rumours but nothing concrete. No incidents at the school but he wasn’t well liked, he was seen as pompous and not as funny as he thought he was, there was a phoniness about him. Maybe the close proximity to children had somehow helped satiate his desires, mused Ward. Did you see the look in his eyes when we showed the pictures, especially the strong ones, asked Hesford. Yes, Ward had noticed. Away from his institutionalised routine and work, away from the educational setting that presumably had instilled boundaries, and a certain discipline, for want of a better word, Ward felt that they would see or hear about Mr Cosgrave again. Hesford had grimly nodded and replied it was unlikely Cosgrave would be jailed and he felt there may be a certain progression. 


As the detectives had predicted Mr Cosgrave was fined and put on the sex offenders register but escaped a custodial sentence.  At his trial he had pleaded guilty. The school promptly fired him and he quickly fled London. A few years later the detectives heard of him again. Cosgrave had been living on the South coast and paid fifty pound to attend a ‘party’ arranged by a paedophile of some notoriety and dark influence. There had been a 14 year old boy there, a runaway from a kids’ home, groomed for the occasion. He had been fed muscle relaxants and sedatives in a glass of milk. The boy said the milk tasted funny. When he started vomiting it didn’t seem to matter to them much as he was already stripped.  They wiped him down in high spirits. Now he was unconscious it could all begin. Cosgrave was fourth in line out of half a dozen but the child expired before it was his turn. He had possessed the foresight to dress and exit the flat as the others had slapped and shook the cadaver in a forlorn hope of awakening it, then frantically  discussing  how best to dispose of the body and get rid of all the blood. Cosgrave had gone straight to the police, who arrived at the flat as the body was about to be rolled up into a carpet, having already been wrapped in black bin liners. Mr Cosgrave would be the star witness at the trial, a true penitent. Hesford reminded Ward that he had seen a possible evolution in Mr Cosgrave. Yes, said Ward, but I never thought to such an extreme. Mr Cosgrave had bloomed.




Submitted: May 19, 2021

© Copyright 2021 MaxConvex. All rights reserved.

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